Ohio museum to move 10,000-year-old mastodon

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COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - A giant, skeletal rear end is one of the first things to greet visitors at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. So museum workers are going to move the 10,000-year-old mastodon a few feet to showcase his better features.

“We want to get him so that from all angles, except for up against the wall, you see a side view or a front view,” says Bob Glotzhober, who’s in charge of moving the mastodon early next month.

That means popping off about a ton of delicate bones like Legos and putting them back together, all while visitors gawk at the action.

The 10-foot-tall mastodon, Conway, named after the man who unearthed him, has gotten around since it was found in 1887.

Horse-drawn carriages once carted the remains around to county fairs in Ohio. It last moved in 1993 during renovations at the historical society.

Conway has even traveled to Facebook, where a photo shows him covered in shaggy brown fur and wearing a Santa hat.

“A visitor asked if I was a dinosaur the other day,” his persona recently posted. “(Dinosaur, indeed!) I politely told him that mastodons were mammals, a distant relative of modern elephants.”

Now, Glotzhober, one of a half dozen or so people who will handle the prehistoric bones with his bare hands, is using photographs from 17 years ago to try to recreate the last move’s success.

Workers will extract fiberglass replicas of Conway’s tusks before removing the rest of his head. Then, it’s time to tackle his legs, thick as tree trunks and frozen midstep.

“If you’re pulling and you twist it, it could break some of the bone,” Glotzhober says, pointing to the mastodon’s limbs.

The mastodon movers will jack up a platform supporting Conway’s ribcage like mechanics hoisting up a car to inspect its underbelly. They’ll scooch the skeleton over several feet and try to reattach the rest of the bones on a more flattering angle.

Conway’s behind wasn’t always leading the welcome wagon at the historical society. Visitors used to wander down a staircase to meet a triumphant skeleton, tusks raised high in all his prehistoric glory.

But now, in the era of handicapped-accessible entrances, the second-story entryway has gone the way of many of the museum’s inhabitants.

“We’ve had people complain about seeing his backside. As they come walking into the museum, it’s the first thing that greets people,” Glotzhober said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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